Illusionistquest Chapter 1: Open Minded

“The mind is a strange and wonderful thing. It’s active all the time, processing information, reacting to what the body sees, hears, smells, etc. Then it tells the body what to do, in order to survive, thrive even. But that’s not all it can do, no, the mind is capable of imagination, dreams, the ability to see and feel far beyond what is real, or even possible. The mind, when it works properly, is what makes life possible and worth living.”

The man closes the book he held, an old and worn tome, it’s letters faded in the passage of time. He sighs and sets the book down, staring out the window as he says, “It’s a beautiful quote don’t you think?”

“You’ve read that quote like, a thousand times already, I’m kind of getting sick of it.”

The man turns his head, his worn face seeming tired and un-amused. He wasn’t really that old of a man, as he was only forty-five, but time had taken a toll upon his complexion, his face strong yet covered in worry lines, his hair a gray fading from black. He was tall, perhaps 6’3″ and had a sturdy build that wasn’t overly muscular, though he did seem to fill in the casual tunic and pants he wore quite well. He sighs and walks up to the speaker before pinching the bridge of his nose.

“You’re an Illusionist, damnit, you should treat this seriously.” He lowers his hand and his green eyes flash cold as he looks down at the poor lad before him, a man of twenty two years with a strong build and a crop of short, brown hair that did nothing to hide his blue eyes.

This man is an Illusionist, though at the moment an apprentice. This man, is you.

You roll you eyes and lean back in chair you’re sitting in, resting your legs up on the table for balance. “I do take it seriously, which is why I’m seriously tired of hearing the same thing over and over again. I’ve already been doing this for… what, five years with you? Shouldn’t we do more, I don’t know… illusions?”

The man narrows his eyes and you suddenly feel the chair under you shift, causing you to lose your balance. You flail your arms, trying to right yourself, but you fall anyway, crashing backward to the floor as a sharp pain echoes up your neck. You cry out from the shock and the fall, looking up to glare at the man.

“What in the Hells! Why did you push me Richie!”

“It’s Richard you little shit, and if you couldn’t tell that was an illusion, then let that be the answer to ‘why we shouldn’t do more illusions.'”

You growl and pick yourself up, righting the chair. It hadn’t actually tipped backward, but your mind THOUGHT it had, and so, in your reaction to such a thing, you actually DID tip over the chair. A frustrating little prank, but you suppose the message got through.

“Fiiiiiiine Richie, fine I get it.”

Richard sighs and shakes his head before sitting down and shaking his head. “It’s Richard… you know what, no, it’s Mr. Dennerman.”

You roll your eyes. Such a stickler for formality your master was. “Oh very well my great Illusionist Dennerman, pray, forgive this wretched apprentice for his transgressions.”

You smirk as you feel a tugging at your mind as your master once again tries to cast an illusion upon you. You weren’t paying attention before, which was your fault to be fair, but this time you were prepared, and with a mental gesture, you stop it.

“Ha ha!” You say, raising a fist triumphantly toward the floor. Wait, the floor? What the hell is… oh no.

You flail around again in panic as you drop to the ground, the wood planks of Richard’s home coming for your face. “This is an illusion.” You say to yourself, “Just an illusion!”

You find yourself standing where you were before, a mild sense of vertigo making you stumble. Aww Jackor damnit, he still got you. He ALWAYS gets you.

You glare at him, but instead of gloating, he just holds his head in his hands and mumbles. You grit your teeth at the sight. Damnit, that didn’t really push him that hard, did it? You walk over to him and put a hand on his shoulder, but before you reach him, his hand shoots out and grabs your wrist. You stare at him in shock as his eyes look at yours, his vision seemed unfocused, as if he can’t really see you there.

“Woah woah, Old man!” You cry out, “It’s me! Your apprentice, hey snap out of it!”

He pauses, vision seeming to focus at your words. He blinks a few times before dropping his hand down and sighing. “Thanks.”

“I was worried there for a moment, that it had finally… you know.” You shuffled about, feeling uncomfortable with the subject.

“That the madness had gotten me? No, not yet boy, not from something like that.”

“It’s not fair you know.” You say, gritting your teeth as you do, an old anger welling within you. “That we would be born with these powers, yet have to suffer with the knowledge that using them will drive us insane.”

Richard chuckled, though it was without any joy. “Yes well, that is the great joke that Jackor has played upon us, isn’t it? Granting us power over the minds of Humans and Monsters alike, yet cursing us with the slow degradation of our own minds. The Trickster God plays us like fiddles, and we can’t help but dance to his tune.”

You sigh, looking down as you remembered one of the first lessons Richard had taught you were introduced to him for training all those years ago. Illusionists were a type of sorcerer, the rarest by far, though that was what they had the rest of the world believe. In truth, the Illusionist does not use mana to cast spells like any common sorcerer, but instead uses the power of their imaginations and willpower, much in the same way as a Wizard, to cast their spells. Though they are limited in scope to only one form of magic, unlike a Wizard, the limits of what you could make other’s believe are unrivaled.

Those weak of will, or those in a situation to find your illusion believable can fall prey to an illusion, the magic working directly upon their minds to influence their senses, make them truly think that they can feel, hear, touch, taste, or smell whatever the illusionist likes. Of course, making a Hellhound appear before someone under the sea would be so incredulous that most people would easily see through the illusion. But what if a Shark girl appeared and took a bite out of someone’s leg? What if their mind felt the pain, the agony of the bite, truly BELIEVED that it been ripped off, that blood was draining fast into the water, that the body was dying? Would the person die?

In such a situation, the answer was yes. The mind was so powerful, it could kill itself. No other spell caster, not even Wizards or the Monster Lady herself could do this level of illusion work. All others were… pale imitations.

There was, however, a cost to anything. For a Sorcerer, they required mana crystals, a Wizard, their willpower and stamina, and a Monster Witch, the rich semen of men. An Illusionist on the other hand, used their own sanity. The more complex the illusion, the more they had to push against mental defenses, the more they had to struggle to be believed, the greater the strain it put upon them. Low level illusions tended not to affect the Illusionist much, but over time, such things compounded, until eventually the Illusionist succumbed to his madness, and had to be put down.

This was the first lesson you had learned, to carefully use your powers when they’d be most effective. The better you were at this, the longer you’d live with your mind intact. Already you had odd dreams at night, though in the waking day you never noticed anything wrong. It was… sobering to see someone like Richard in his condition, a reminder of the fate you shared.

>Your current Madness level: 5%

>Your Current Illusionist level: 1

“You going to be alright?” You ask, helping your Master up. He sighs and nods to you.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Well, no I won’t be, but you know what I mean, Darcy.”

“That’s… not my name.”

He pauses and cocks his head. “Oh, right, right, that was my pupil before last… let’s see, you’re… Fiora?”

“That’s a girl’s name, and no, she was your last pupil.”

“Oh, right, right. Damn good Illusionist, best pupil I’ve ever had.” He frowns, deep in thought. “Who are you again?”

You open your mouth to reply when you hear a knock at the door. Both of you look at each other in surprise before Richard walks over and opens it. On the other side of the door stands a Crowgirl, a messenger bag slung over her shoulder. She salutes to Richard, her disorganized black feathers falling everywhere on her tight blue flying outfit, embroidered with the words, “Royal Mail.”

“I have a message for Mr. Dennerman!” She says, her words overly formal.

Richard shakes his head, “Clarissa, you don’t have to be so formal around me, you know that.”

“Sorry sir, but orders are to treat all customers with the respect you’d pay to your superior Post-officers!”

You wave a hand to the Crowgirl. “Hey there Clarissa, how’s the weather today?”

She looks to you and a crimson blush spreads over her face. “It… it’s f…fine!” She stammers, fidgeting with the mail bag over her shoulder. You had to admit, the girl was cute, in a Monster sort of way. She wasn’t overly attractive, not like many of the monsters who’s feminine features had been magnified to the point of being objects of pure sex, but seeing as they drank semen, that was probably a survival feature. Maybe if she’d prune her feathers and comb her hair once in awhile…

Richard smirked before coughing into his hand. “Anything else, dear?”

Her eyes snapped back to Richard and she blushed even deeper, “N…no sir, just another letter f…from Sanctifrond.”

He laughed heartily before shaking his head, “Alright, you better be off before you get so worked up that you lose your balance flying. Tell your mother I said hello.”

“Will do sir!” She says and gives you one last look before she turns suddenly and leaps into the air, flying off to her next destination.

Richard watched her go for a moment before turning a sly smile to you. “She’s a nice girl.”

“Fuck off, you’re not my dad.”

“I’m just saying, you know, maybe if you wanted to branch off here and there…”

You roll your eyes. “Come on, you do this every time she shows up.”

“Well, maybe if you would stop pulling that snide attitude, I’d stop giving you shit.”

You shrug your shoulders. “You know that being a mischievous little bastard comes with the territory of Illusions.”

Richard grumbled, conceding the point. Leave it to Jackor, the asshole who gave you your powers, to also ingrain a personality trait to make Illusionists cheeky bastards who looooooove pulling pranks. Seriously, if you ever met this God of yours, you’d kill him.

“Well let’s see what we have here,” Richard says, looking the letter over.

“Another informant?” You ask, looking at it curiously as he opens the letter.

“Yes, keeping track of the other illusionists, making sure no one is causing troub….”

He pauses, then re-reads a certain section, his face growing more and more concerned. You furrow your brow as well. You’d never seen him act like this after reading one of these reports, which he received on a fairly regular basis thanks to either the Harpies of the Royal Mail, or the Communion Receiver. Occasionally he’d leave, never really talking about why, but you knew it was because he had to go perform a rather depressing duty. As the oldest living Illusionist, it was his responsibility to keep the others in line, to aid them when they were in trouble, and to put them down before their madness could hurt others.

You’d seen him look severe, or tired, but never this grave. You licked your lips before asking slowly, “What is it?”

He lowers the letter, eyes looking haunted. “It’s Fiora, she… she’s succumbed.” He turns his gaze slowly to you, and you shiver in response. He takes a deep breath before speaking softly, “I don’t think I can do it alone this time.”

The house grows quiet as Richard looks at you, his eyes searching yours. You look down, a tidal wave of emotions flowing through you at his request. You grit your teeth, take a deep breath, and look back up at him.

“Sure, sounds good to me. Guess I better get packing then?”

Richard blinks a few times, his expression one of pure bewilderment. “I’m sorry, what was that?”

You nod your head, walking over to your desk and looking over a few things. Should you bring your notebook? It was mostly filled with drawings of dicks and other bullshit when you were bored but it could be useful. You speak while searching, “I said let’s do this, let’s get going!”

You feel a hand on your shoulder and you turn about to see Richard staring at you with hard eyes. “Boy this isn’t a fucking joke for once, this is very serious.” He takes a deep breath, “Fiora was my best pupil and she could be very, very dangerous. You could very well die! I could very well die!”

“Then why ask me to come?”

“Because…” He pauses, then shakes his head. “Maybe I just felt it’s time for you to see what you’ll have to do some day.”

“Uh huh.” You say, frowning. He meant to say something else, didn’t he? Well, whatever, he’d always kept his secrets. Illlllluuusssssiiiooonnnnssssss. “Okay then.”

“Tobias Anton Shady.”

“Hey, you got my name right!”

“Got your name… Jackor damnit, look, I’m asking you to help me kill someone!”

“Yeah, I know. You remind me of the fate of an Illusionist every day, how could I not know?” You reach down and grab your knife from the desk. Why you’d hide a hunting knife in your desk, not even you know. You’re pretty sure you just left it there one day. So you can be lazy, big deal, wanna fight about it?

>You gain [Hunting Knife]!

>You’ve never actually hunted, but man, it’s a really big knife.

You pull the weapon out of its sheath and look it over before pointing the blade toward your Master. “I’m not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to kill someone, but… I’ve been cooped up in this little down for so many years that the thought of going on an adventure is exciting!”

“Adventure?” Richard sighs, shaking his head. “I told you, most of the stuff in that story is obviously made up.

You sniff indignantly. “The Grand Wizard’s story is 100% true and you know it!”

“He said that he shit on the Lord Commander of the Order of the Heroic Brotherhood.”

“Yes, and?”

“And that he rode a tidal wave of shit in Feldergrod’s sewers.”

“That was so cool.”

“And that he made a daughter from the head of a Temple Guard and various chemicals.”

“You know that Saya is real, come on!” You sigh in exasperation. Richard had never believed in the full story of the Grand Wizard and his quest to defeat the Monster Lady. He couldn’t deny that many of the events happened, how could he? He and his companions had fundamentally changed the world nearly twenty years ago, shifting the dynamics between Monsters and Humans, fostering the greatest peace between them ever known.

In addition, he’d found and reinstated the art of magitek, the creation of magical devices which had revolutionized the world. True, many of these advancements were still very expensive, but from the magitek limbs he’d crafted for the Wanderer to even the large Ley-ways, his works spread far farther than just killing some Dragon. (Which was so cool, you come, come on, he and his wife blew her up with a plasma blast!)

Every child had grown up reading the story of the Grand Wizard, especially you, so the prospect of going on an adventure had always appealed to you. Of course, this was just a quick jaunt to…

“Hey, where are we going anyway?”

“Note says she was seen near Loveura.”

Jaunt to Loveura… wait a second.

“Loveura?” You say, eyes sparkling. “Isn’t that the garden city with all the beautiful river ways, plants, and hotties?”

Richard rolls his eyes. “Yes, but we’re not in for a pleasure trip.” He smirks, “Besides, what would Clarissa think of you saying something like that?”

“Jackor damnit, she just delivers the mail, stop trying to play matchmaker.”

“Hehe.” Smug bastard.

You growl and stomp off toward your room. “I’m going to pack my stuff now!”

“Just remember that this is business!” He shouts after you. You pause on the stairs, out of his vision, listening as he mutters, “Just… business.”

You’re becoming increasingly convinced that he wasn’t going to look forward to this. As far as you could tell, this was his second pupil he’s had to put down, and the first time messed him up really bad. What would killing his favorite pupil do? You consider asking to go alone, but you think better of that. He was very, very serious about his job, and he was good at it. Besides, did you even have the resolve to do the deed?

You look down at the knife again before sighing and entering your room. It was a small little place with a simple bed, chest, and desk. Fit for a bright and appropriate student. Of course, you’d managed to make a total mess of the place, as cleaning was overrated.

You look around the room and find your rucksack, tossing in some clothing from around the room, mainly simple tunics and trousers. You look around, annoyed that you can’t find your… ah, there it is! You take your coat, a large, black overcoat that you find rather amazing. It’s a little warm to wear it now, but what if it got cold? Can’t have that.

>You gain [Rucksack]

>You can sack your ruck with it. What is ruck anyway, that’s not even a word. Just put normal stuff in it for now.

>You gain [Overcoat]

>It’s a really nice coat.

As you remove your coat, you find it was on top of your Communion glass. You groan as you realize that leaving means you’ll lose access to the Communion matrix. Sure, Port-o-Glass was pretty common these days, but you weren’t exactly made of mana crystals or money, and Richard would never buy one for you with the mysterious illusionist money of his. You sigh and gently stroke the device.

“Farewell, my friend.” You say before turning about and continuing to gather items, including your Diary and a book on Illusionist theory. You’d also drawn in it, but not as much, because it was actually kind of useful. Well, the little you’ve read of it. Look, you learned better by example, alright?

>You gain [Diary]

>You find it comforting to write down your daily experiences, just in case… you know. The madness…

>You gain [Illusions of Grandeur- Basic Illusionist theory]

>By Richard Dennerman. Honestly, were there even Illusionists before this guy?

You look around the room one last time, realizing that you really didn’t own that much. Huh, guess you never figure that out until it’s time to go, huh? You shake your head and turn you leave when you notice something in the corner. So that’s where that was! You hurriedly pick it up and stuff it into your bag. Oh yes, can’t be without this!

>You gain [One other item]

>Please be gentle

You nod your head, satisfied that you’re well packed. Well, not really, WELL packed, but that’s basically all you have. Regardless, it’s time to head off, and you leap down the stairs, positively brimming with energy.

“Adventure!” You shout, bursting into the room where Richard was finishing packing some papers.

“No.” He says, glaring at you.

“Fair enough.” You say, shrugging. “Kind of a stupid thing to shout anyway.”

“Then why do it?” He asks, standing up and tucking the letters into the breast pocket of his coat. He sighs and steps over to you, placing a hand on your shoulder. “Anyway, you ready?”

“Yes sir!”

“Sir…” He says, grumbling before shouldering a bag of his own. He looks at his own desk before sighing and then nodding to you. “I need to go hook up Craig to the cart.”

“Aww, we’re not taking the Ley-Way?”

“What, you think I’m made of money? We can’t just ride the Ley-Way willy-nilly.” He smirks, “Besides, I’d trust a good ol’ horse drawn cart far before those magitek monstrosities.”

You huff as he ushers you outside. Darn, you’d really like to ride one of those, but he was right, they were very expensive for most people to ride, though they were supposed to be quite comfortable! And fast! And… and… come on!

As Richard locks up and goes to the little stable out back you look over the town of Kasin. It was, as far as you could tell, your average town in the Kingdom of Deleor, filled with little wood and stone towns and surrounded by small farms. The main export of the town was its pottery of all things, although as magitek began to creep every outward, you’d seen more people making textiles. What a world you lived in.

Like most towns these days, Kasin has a decent Monster population, and they got along very well with the humans. Supposedly it had been like this even before the current Monster Lady, but you didn’t know, seeing as you were born in the Capital of Sanctifrond, not that you remembered much of it other than things were rather hectic as change came rapidly. Well, things were fine in Kasin anyway, nice people, nice Monsters, decent air.

You stretch and watch the sky as birds and Monsters flew back and forth, smirking. What things would you see on your trip? What mischief could you get into? The possibilities excited you enough to forget that you were essentially on a hit. The world was a large place, and damnit, you were going to see some of it!

You look over your shoulder as the sound of shod hooves on the packed earth came to you, and you smile to see Craig, the big, dumb gelding that Richard kept around. Sure, you’d learned to ride the guy, but he was so passive and slow, there was no fun in it. Still, he had a good back and could pull the small little cart that Richard used all day if he had to.

You toss your rucksack into the back, jostling the equipment in the back. You look in to see that Richard had packed various camping necessities and whatever in there, which meant you’d be sleeping outdoors. Oh joy. You shake your head and vault up into the cart next to your Master, who sighs at you once again. It’s like saying hello for him!

“You ready for this?” He asks once more, hands tight on the reins.

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you really, really sure?”

“Well…”

“Jackor damnit.”

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

“Seriously, Tobias, that question was largely rhetorical, but what in the name of Jackor did you forget?”

You scratch your head, thinking about that. You’d packed everything right? You had your [Overcoat], your [Rucksack], even your [Bag of Sand]! The damn thing was one of the oddest gifts you’d ever received from Richard, being that it was some kind of bag of holding as far as you could tell, but the damn thing was full of sand. A never ending supply of sand.

Like, you’d never pulled anything out of it but normal sand, sparkling sand, and once a tiny sculpture of a bear. To be fair, that bear sculpture was amazing, because it speaks to you sometimes. Not like, in reality or anything, but like, on a deep and emotional level. You figure it was like, your spirit animal or something. Anyway, the bag had sand, and while some of it was magical, you were certain, most of it was uh, sand.

Which could be effective, like that one time you had to polish the keys on your Communion…

Oh Hells.

“YES. YES THERE IS SOMETHING I HAVE FORGOTTEN.” You say, a forced smile coming over your face.

Richard eyes you with that characteristic expression of “What’s he trying to pull?” Just because you were trying to pull things a lot, doesn’t mean he always had to be suspicious… Well, alright, it did, but he should know it comes with the territory!

“I’ll be right back!” You say, hopping out of the cart, you boots kicking up dust as you land. You catch the key as he throws it to you, and you dash inside with nary a lost second. Except to open the door, of course.

You dash up to your room and burst open the door before dashing straight to your Communion Glass. You activate the runic matrix and turn it on, the whole time you’re tapping your foot.

“C’mon, c’mon…” You mutter. It’s kind of stupid really, it’s not like he’d leave without you, right? Nah, he wouldn’t do that… probably.

You look over to the side of your desk and grab the pen there as well as some ink. Might as well have these, seeing as he’d probably make you do homework or something. Besides, never hurts to have extra stuff around for writing in your [Diary]. Next to it sits the little bear miniature, which you also scoop up. How did you forget this?

>You gain [Ink and Pen]

>It’s… it’s just ink and a pen. There’s nothing special here, kids.

>You gain [Bearsy]

>He needed a name damnit! And look, he only spoke to you once while you were dreaming when he said, “You have to go back.”

>What does that even mean? You aren’t that insane yet, right?

>Oh right this is for descriptions, uh, it’s a little bear figurine.

Your communion glass makes a humming noise and you hurriedly weave some runes to access… ah, there we are, the runic library. In case anyone ever wanted to check what they’d been doing, one could go back and find with the flick of a wrist. Of course, this meant ANYONE could, and you may or may not have some embarrassing things there. No, you didn’t feel like think about your RP character in a Grand Wizard chatroom.

Damnit.

Anyway, you delete all of that. Now your secret is safe! Well, unless you blab. You shake your head and accidently knock aside some papers, revealing a book on the table. You pick it up slowly before your eyes go wide. Oh hell, how did you forget this? This was your signed copy of [Wizardquest]! **Coming to stores near you** Well, it might not actually be his signature, but it looked like of like how you’d imagine his signature would look.

Anyway, with you it goes! Can’t leave that behind now can you?

>You gain [[Wizardquest]]

>It’s a fairly big tome for a story adapted from a cyan-rune story. This is the unabridged version with commentary on the side by the Ascendant, as only one who was there could tell it.

You nod your head and activate the runes to turn the Communion glass off before sighing and heading back downstairs. Placing a hand on the door, you stop and look around you one last time. Man, there were some memories here, huh… Oh well, you’d be back anyway, so you were going to enjoy your murdercation!

On second thought, you decide that’s a bad thing to call this and resolve not to do that again.

You lock the door behind you before mounting back up into the cart. Richard gives you a strange look as you pack your [Rucksack] with your other belongings. He shakes his head, not even bothering to comment on your amazing book. You’ve shown it to him like, ten times, but that’s okay. He’s just jealous.

“Okay, now are you ready to go?”

“Yes, I am ready, really ready, and really really ready.”

“Good because I’m going anyway.”

“What about the…”

“Don’t care.” Richard says flatly before cracking the reins and spurring Craig to start forward. You stare off into the distance, your eyes bright with the prospects of adventure. This was it, this was your time, the adventure you’d always wanted. You take a deep breath and prepare yourself for your destiny.

—————————-

“Oh. My. Gods. This is boring.” You say, hanging off the side of the cart, watching the ground as it rolled slowly, almost painfully past. You figured that, you know, there were down times for traveling and such, but this was almost painful. The open, sunny landscape with the trees and the plains was just so… you don’t know… ordinary!

“Wow Tobias, I’m shocked, it’s been a whole twenty minutes before you started complaining.”

You glare at Richard, who has a smug smile on his face. Bastard. He just whistles softly as Craig plods along at his normal, slow pace. It was excruciating for you, in more ways than one and you sigh, flopping over in your seat.

Richard sighs, “Well, if you’re so bored, why don’t you tell me about the principles of illusionary theory? We do have four days until we reach Loveura as it sits.”

“Uhhhhh.” You say, eyes sliding off to the side as you notice something shifting in the grass ahead of you. You narrow your eyes as you watch it, the shape getting closer and… oh goodness, was this a Monster attack?

You stand up and draw your [Hunting Knife], pointing toward the grass. “Look out, there’s something coming!”

Richard looks over to where you’re pointing a look of confusion on his face. He stops Craig with a tug of the reins before scratching his head and focusing on the grass. It shuffles some more and from it emerges the form a slime girl, a yes, the typical first enemy of an adventure!

She was made of green slime, her form resolved into that of a young woman, seeming to be about a shapely eighteen year old with a beautiful face. In one sticky arm, she held a basket that was full of various herbs and other plant-life. She blinks at you as you hold the knife, which would be fairly useless against her you realize.

“Oh, hello there Tobias, going somewhere?” She asks, looking confused

You stare at her for a few moments before looking down and seeing your position, one foot on the side of the wagon, the other pointing a knife at her like it was some kind of sword. You feel acutely embarrassed all of a sudden. This isn’t helped when Richard snickers.

“Oh. Hey Yvette.” You say, slowly sitting down, trying to keep the embarrassment off your face.

“You… okay there?” Yvette asks, cocking her head. “You seem kind of… uhm.”

“I’m fine…” You mumble.

“He’s just an idiot.” Richard says, shaking his head. “Anyway, we’re heading out to Loveura on business.”

“Ohhhh, Loveura! I’ve never been, but it sounds lovely!” She smirks at you. “You behave yourself, you hear?”

“Yeah…” You mumble, sinking down lower into the wagon.

Richard waves goodbye to the slime before nudging Craig to move again. You get out of earshot of Yvette before Richard turns to you, shit-eating grin on his face.

“I don’t want to hear it.” You say.

“What a hero you sure are.”

“I said I don’t want to hear it!” You groan, pinching in between your eyes. Jackor damnit, you’d already made a fool of yourself and Richard was NEVER going to let you live this one down.

“Hehe, alright, alright. As payment, you have to not complain for at least, oh, another hour.”

This is going to be difficult.

—————————-

A few hours later, you’ve managed not to complain (much) and the sky was beginning to shift to the late afternoon. The trip so far had been incredibly boring as you hadn’t even passed another cart or person after running into the Slime. You’d tried to sleep, but you were way too embarrassed to even attempt doing so. Instead, you read more from [Wizardquest]

Richard sighs and rubs at the back of his head. “Hey, Tobias… look, I didn’t mean to call you out like that.”

“Yeah you did.”

“Well, maybe a little, but I didn’t mean to be so rude about it.” He shrugs, “I just want you to take this a little more seriously is all. It’s good to see this as some kind of adventure, but… the world isn’t like in your book. Things are boring, or difficult, and sometimes they don’t go the way you’d imagined.”

You look down and mumble, “I know that…”

“I hope so, because I’m not going to be around forever. You need to learn how to fend for yourself.”

“I guess so…” You sigh, looking back out the front of the cart. The grass ahead of you shook. Great, another person you probably knew. Well you weren’t going to embarrass yourself this time!

“Hey Richie, look, someone else is ahead of us.”

Richard looks off to the grass ahead of you before furrowing his brow. “We’re too far away for anyone from Kasin…” He slows the cart again, seeming very wary, which sets you off as well. You slide your hand to your [Hunting Knife] again as the grass parts.

A lithe figure walks out before the cart, a wicked smile on their face. It was a Monster of average height and a slim build, dressed in an assortment of leathers. She had brown furred arms and legs that ended in feline paws, which matched the set of cat ears atop her head and the long, sinuous tail behind her. A Werecat huh? Weird, you didn’t know any Catgirls…

“Good evening gentlemen!” She says, sharp teeth shining in the afternoon sun. “Pleased to make your acquaintance today, but I’m afraid we’ll have to cut this conversation short.”

She pulls out two daggers from her belt and twirls them in her hands. “I’m afraid this is a cat burglary, and you’ll be giving me all your possessions, if you want to live that is.”

Richard looked the Monster over, his expression becoming unimpressed, then bored. He looks over to you before an idea seems to cross his face. He crosses his arms and then shouts to the Werecat. “You may take our possessions, but only if you can defeat my apprentice!”

You stare at your Master, mouth going dry all of a sudden. Aha… what?

You slowly turn your head over to your loving, caring, wonderful, would never sell you out to some random fucking burglar, Master.

He smiles at you and points to the Cat girl. You give him a death glare that would make The Great Hero blush. He merely smiles wider. Seriously what a piece of shit.

“Are you two gay or something?” The Cat girl asks, scratching her head. “Because you’re just looking at each other like you’re gay or something.”

“Well, he’s never had a girlfriend.” Richard says, shrugging.

“The fuck!” You shout at Richard before spinning about to the Cat girl. “I’m not gay!”

“Oooookay.” She says, sighing. “Look, I was just joking, but don’t be so defensive kid. Christ, you smell like a virgin too.”

You blush furiously as she puts a hand on her hip. “So, I have to defeat you huh? Like, in what? Stabbing you? I don’t actually want to kill anyone, but I mean, it’s obviously not a total waste if I off you, right?” She looks to Richard and he shrugs.

“Some mentor you are.” You grumble before sighing and staring flatly at the Cat girl. As far as encounters went, this could be worse, she could have just attacked you without chatting you up. Why was she chatting you up anyway?

You furrow your brow and realize that while she was talking, she was subtly moving closer to the cart, the graceful way she moved her, admittedly attractive, body lost in her words. You grit your teeth, realizing that you were being played. That’s not how it works when dealing with an Illusionist. You did not do the playing, no the Illusionist was the one who played you!

“Woah, woah, hold on there.” You say, holding up your hands. She cocks her head, ears twitching as you do, her eyes watching you warily.

“Now, I really don’t want to get stabbed today, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be stabbing anyone.”

She shrugs, “Eh, I could take it or leave it.”

“I have a proposition for you then.”

“Eh?”

You reach into your [Bag of Sand] and grip a handful of soft sand, pulling it out slowly. As you do, you exert some of your power onto the Monster, and her ears twitch softly, a smile coming to her face.

“Oh ho ho, so you’re looking to bribe your way out of this, hmm?” She flashes a smile toward Richard, “Some apprentice you have there.”

Richard shrugs, his nose twitching some. You ignore him, keeping up your ruse, although damn, this sand smelled like freshly cut roses mixed with daffodil juice. It’s a very simple illusion to make her think it’s just coins thankfully and didn’t tax your concentration at all. She expects coins in a pouch, she gets coins in a pouch. You hold up your [Bag of Sand] and say, “Look, this is all the money I have, see? I’ll just give it to you if you leave us alone.”

“You know, I could have just taken it anyway.”

“Yes, but now you don’t have to stab anyone.”

She considers this for a moment before pointing toward the cart with one of her knives. “What’s in the cart?”

“Wheat.”

“Wheat?”

“Wheat.”

She frowns, circling around the cart to look inside it. She grunts before looking up at you. “Wheat. Dollora, you’re just a bunch of simpleton farmers aren’t you?”

You shrug, impressed that you were able to add the second illusion so quickly. It was a little more difficult to keep both up at once, but again, she seemed quite willing to believe something simple like this. Richard nodded behind you, smiling still. Seriously, this guy…

The Cat girl sighs and walks up to you, pointing a knife right at you. “Alright, hand over the money.”

You look resigned before sighing and holding your hand over her outstretched paw. As soon as you’re about to drop the “coins” into her paw, you quickly fling the aromatic sand into her eyes.

“AWWW FUCK!” She shouts, staggering backward and dropping one of her daggers, paws clawing at her eyes. She screams a furious mrowl before dropping to her knees and trying to rub it all out, though due to her appendages, she’s failing, and quite miserably.

“Well done.” Richard says, putting his hands back on the reins. “Neutralized her without any bloodshed and only a little bit of embarrassment to yourself. Looks like you have learned something.”

You watch the Cat girl writhe in pain on the ground. Man that had to doubly hurt, because these Monsters generally had really, really good noses also, and the smells must be causing her pain as well. Hell, she was salivating profusely, which was not very attractive. Guess you could leave, she’d probably not follow you, and even if she did, you could probably trick her again. However…

You shake your head and hop down from the cart. Richard groans, ‘What are you doing?”

“Oh, she hasn’t learned her lesson yet.” You say, squatting down in front of her, her face a mess of tears and sand. She swipes at you as you settle down in front of her, but you block the clumsy blow, catching her paw in your hand. You gently close your fingers around hers and she gasps.

“W…what are you doing?” She cries pitifully, eyes closed shut and smelling of fresh roses and desperation. Beautiful.

“Do you know what your first mistake was?” You ask quietly, still holding her paw. She begins to search around herself for one of her knives, but you gently move it away with your free hand.

“What are you talking about! You threw coins in my eyes and then it became sand? Aggghhhh what the hell!”

“Your first mistake.” You say, shaking your head, though she can’t see it. “Was calling it a ‘cat burglary.’ I appreciate the joke, but a burglary is the act of entering a building to commit theft.”

“What the fuck does that have to do with anything!”

“Your second mistake, was calling me gay.”

“Dollora damnit.” She says, slumping, paw still in your hand, wiping drool away with the other paw. “You’re not going to shut up, are you?”

“Your third mistake, was trusting everything you could see with your eyes.”

She sneers, “Well, I can’t much see now, can I?”

“No, you cannot see with your eyes, but instead, try seeing with your heart.”

She goes silent for a moment before whispering, “Are… are you hitting on me?”

“What? No, I… look, anyway, I feel for your predicament. Tell me, why did you go to the life of crime? Was it because of your crippling illiteracy?”

“Huh? I can read you idiot…” She squeezes her paw on your hand, the rough pad feeling warm against your fingers. “And it’s none of your business.”

“But it is. You see, I am not a simple farmer.”

“By Dollora, what a revelation.”

“You see, I am a man of God.” This was technically true, as you were a man of a particular God.

“Oh good, I tried to rob a Priest of Solos, of course I would.” She smirks, “What, did you throw monster killing sand in my eyes or something? Going to make me blind before it kills me?”

“No dear, the sand I threw in your eyes is not harming you, but instead it is awakening your true feelings.”

“M…my what?” She begins to shift uncomfortably. “Y…you’re talking nonsense.”

“You never wanted to be a burglar, did you? You wanted a simple life, to find a good husband, to have a family and live in peace.” You sigh, “But that didn’t happen, did it? Things got in the way, scuffles with other Monsters, problems with your Mother, the works.”

She sniffles, “H…how could you?”

“So you turned to crime in order to survive. Oh child of Dollora, what a sad life you live. If only there was some way to turn you to the road of righteousness.”

“Is… is there no hope for me?” She says, grasping your hand with her other paw. “Please, show me the light!”

Fuck you, you didn’t even have to use an illusion for this one. This poor girl really does have a hard life, doesn’t she? Well, you’re committed.

“Have you heard the good word of The Grand Wizard?”

“The…Grand Wizard? That guy who’s married to the Monster Lady?”

“Yes my child, yes.”

“I mean… I guess. I’ve heard some stories, but mostly about how he killed Monsters.”

“The Wizard giveth and the Wizard taketh away.” You shake your head and place your free hand to her face, gently wiping away the sand. She slowly opens her eyes, tears still falling as her poor sclera are bloodshot. Ouch, that really had to hurt, huh?

She sniffs, looking at you. “The Wizard would… forgive me?”

You smile softly, “Of course he would.”

She smiles back, a blush coming across her face. “I can’t believe what a fool I’ve been. I should have found some honest work instead of going off to do something stupid like robbing people.” She laughs, the sound choking some on tears. “Cat burglary? That sounds so stupid!”

She looks back up to you and then down to the ground. “T…thank you.” She squeezes your hands a little tighter. “You know, you’re a real nice guy…”

Oh hmm. You didn’t mean to push her this far. You try to rise, but her paws grip your hands like iron. She smiles, “Hey, do you think you could stay for dinner or something? I have a few provisions we could share, you know, if you want to…”

“Hey there!” Richard shouts from the cart. “Are you trying to poach my man?”

The Cat girl looks up to your Master, and frowns. “Huh? I thought you said you weren’t gay!”

You shake your head, screaming internally. Fuck him, fuck him, fuck that wonderful piece of shit. “I’m so sorry, but as it turns out, we are. We just don’t… like to tell people”

She slowly lets go of your hands before sighing. “Figures. First guy I try to rob turns out to be a gay Priest of Solos. Mother always warned me about this.”

“Apologies.”

She shrugs, “It’s fine, besides, you’ve set me back on the path I should be on.” She stands shakily, rubbing at her eyes again. “Thank you. Will we meet again?”

You shrug. “Who can say?” You wave to her before mounting back up onto the cart, Richard waving to the Cat girl as he drives the cart away. As soon as she’s out of sight, you punch him in the ribs hard enough to make him grunt.

“You bastard.”

“Love you too, honey.”

You promptly don’t talk to your Master until you stop for the night to set up camp, which consisted of some sleeping rolls laid out in the back of your cart. You set up a small fire beside it, in order to cook a simple meal of beans and pork.

“Look, I’m sorry about the whole gay thing.”

“Ugh.”

“If I didn’t say anything, you might have gotten raped right then and there.”

“Mrmph.”

“Look, even though Monsters aren’t as powerful as they were twenty years ago, she could still have pinned you down and had her way with you. Once that happened, you probably couldn’t have escaped her.”

“Flurgh.”

“And then she’d be your wife, and you’d have kittens with her, and while they’d be adorable, it would really get in the way of our little trip.”

You roll your eyes, “Then why do you keep trying to set me up with Clarissa.”

He points his fork at you, “That’s mainly me having fun. Look, I’m not averse to you dating or anything, but I don’t want you forced into anything. Besides, it was a good lesson for you to learn. Turning up the charm can be very powerful, but you need to know your limits or else what seemed like a perfectly good plan can backfire on you.”

You sigh, “I get it, I get it.”

He smiles and ruffles your hair, “Still, great job out there. That was handled like a true Illusionist.”

You look down at your little tin before closing your eyes and shaking your head. You’d had your first little encounter on this “adventure” and it wasn’t anything like you thought it would be. It was exhilarating to overcome and obstacle, but you were terrified the whole time. What if she didn’t buy your illusion or your speech? What if she did attack you? So many questions swim through your mind, but you dispel them as your Master compliments you.

“Thanks Riche.”

“It’s Richard.”

“Blow it out your ass.”

He just smirks and polishes off the rest of his dinner, a hint of.. what, pride? In his eyes.

 

After finishing your meal, Richard has you head to bed, saying he was taking the first shift of watch. Oh man, watch was like, the time when all the crazy stuff would happen to the Wizard, and when Selene would appear to speak with him, their love fostering the whole time and… Well, needless to say, you find it difficult drifting off to sleep as you think about all the fun you’ll have on watch later!

Of course, when you are awakened what feels like minutes later, you grumble and sit by the fire. Alright, this was actually really boring, wasn’t it? This wasn’t an area with many feral Monsters around, so it wasn’t overly dangerous for that sort of thing, so your chances of running into something other than bandits was really slim. Which meant, this was super boring!

Thinking back to your encounter earlier, would you really want to be attacked? Hrm… probably not. At least she wasn’t actively trying to murderape you like the Monsters in the story. You sigh and rub at your head, drawing away a few beads of sweat. Man, it really was warm out here, and the damn sound of insect wings was really loud. Actually, the longer you sat there, the louder the sound appeared to become.

Actually, that was getting really loud, wasn’t it? Did insects get that loud?

You furrow your brow and look over to see something large drop out of the sky next to you, faster than you could have anticipated, translucent wings buzzing back and forth as a cloud of tiny little stinging insects swarmed about her. You yelp as they start stinging you, and you slap at your skin, drawing away little specks of blood as you do.

“Ehehe, now don’t do that, that’s just mean to my sisters!” The Monster, for it could only be a Monster, said, crossing her black and white striped arms over her petite body. “Not many men are out here at night, it’s almost like you’re asking me to feed off you.”

You gulp, scooting backward some. A Mosquitogirl? Well, if you thought you’d get away with a boring night, guess you were wrong!

Mosquitoes buzz all around you, landing upon your skin, feeding off your sweet, sweet blood. You can barely pay attention to them though, as your mind has focused solely on the larger creature before, a wicked smile plastered upon her face.

To say she was large was perhaps a mistake, for she was certainly human-sized, though perhaps maybe only 4’5″ with a lithe, petite body. Her arms were made of a delicate looking chitin like material, along with her legs, both of which were banded black and white, a strange sight in the light of your fire. She had a human looking torso, but behind her was an insectoid abdomen which seemed deflated somehow. Thin, delicate wings sat on her bag, and they flit every so often, as if trying to drag her upward.

Her face is distinctly human, but her eyes, red as blood, and the antennae atop her head suggest that no, she is anything but human. She chuckles, voice that of a young girl, though it had a buzzing quality to it. That, or the damn bugs were getting to your head. Oh Gods, they weren’t in your head, were they?

“Mmmm, I can smell the blood in you.” She says, reaching forward to touch your chest, right over your heart. Even through your clothing, you feel the alien nature of her chitin finger digging into your skin, as if even her fingers were trying to drain your blood. “Pumping so strong, so hot! Hey, won’t you let me have a taste?”

It’s so hard to think, with the buzzing and the mosquitoes, and the itching! Damnit, where was Richie? Bastard was still asleep? Shit, you could call for him to help, he was like, ten feet away, but would she drain your blood by then?

Besides, the bastard would probably just roll over and tell you to deal with it on your own. Ugghhh. Okay, gotta think, gotta think. Damn her fingers were like those of a fucking skele…ton…

Ahhh, of course. That would work, wouldn’t it?

“I don’t think you want to do that.” You say preparing things in your mind. This would be a little complicated to pull off, but…

“Why not? I’m a mosquito…. you’re a human full of blood…. what else is there?” She opens her mouth and you realize just then that her teeth were sharp and pointed. Weren’t mosquitoes supposed to have suckers or something? Fuck, was she going to bite you? That looks really painful!

No time like the present then… You exert your power upon the Mosquitogirl and she jumps back, staring at the fire. In her eyes, it had just jumped higher, the light and heat flowing off it far more powerful than before. She looks back at you, wings fluttering fitfully.

“W…what was that?” She asks, concerned.

“Do you believe in ghost stories?” You ask calmly before reaching out a hand slowly toward her.

She stares at your hand, and you can see that she’s worried. Good, now is the time for fear. She licks her lips, “Well, yeah, Ghosts are real and everything…”

“Well you’re in!… Oh, wait that wasn’t the answer I was looking for.” You shake your head, annoyed that she took the thunder from you. But getting back on track, you stare at her and grab her wrist, which crunches slightly as you do. Ugghhhh, buuggggssss.

She does pale, the blood she coveted draining from her face. She saw your skin start to fade away, your hand upon her arm becoming little more than a bones grasping her tightly. She shrieks some and tries to pull back, but you’ve got her held firmly in your grasp.

“L..let me go!” She squeals. “I want off!”

“The ride never ends!” You cackle, your illusion of a skeleton obviously working. It was a little tiring to do, but the more scared she became the better.

“Don’t you want a taste? I’m afraid I don’t have blood, but I do have delicious bones. Would you like a humerus? Personally I think it tastes funny…” You cackle again, having a little too much fun with this.

“W..why are the mosquitoes still biting you?” She asks, still trying to pull away.

The…mosquitoes? You blink, looking down to see that mosquitoes were still swarming over you. Oh hell, you’d forgotten about them. They weren’t affected by your illusions, and you didn’t make them vanish to her eyes, or at least make them stay off your bones. Shit, you could see some confusion coming into her expression, as if she’d trying to piece something together. If she started to doubt your illusion, it would all come toppling down!

Nothing for it. You let go of her arm, grab her shoulders, and shake her like an alcoholic beverage. Her head flings back and forth, and she screams out while you scream back at her. She’s way too freaked out now by the mosquito laden skeleton screaming at her to even question that maybe mosquitoes don’t feed on skeletons. Or why a skeleton is here. All she knows is she wants off this ride.

You stop your shaking suddenly and then stare into her eyes, which were swimming all around, unfocused by the shaking. “Do you hear that?” You say, smiling a skeletal smile.

“H…hear what?” She says, tears in her eyes. You feel something wet against your shoe and… oh Jackor damnit, she didn’t… yep, she did. Ugghhhhh BUGS.

“Bats!”

Her face gets even more pale, if that was possible. “Bats? N…no!”

“Yes! Stay with me, won’t you? I’m sure they’d love to meet you and your friends.”

She looks quickly around at all her mosquito friends before shaking her head violently. “No…please, just let me go.”

“Let you go you say? But you were so happy to be here!”

“Please…”

Alright, that’s enough fun for now. Besides, you didn’t want to push your luck like earlier. You release her and she hops backward, rubbing at her face with her arms to dry away the tears. You give her a skeletal smile and wave at her, causing her to blanch and then leap into the air, flitting away with the cloud of mosquitoes behind her.

You wait until she’s out of range before dropping your illusion and slumping down, feeling a minor wave of tiredness, as well as a minor headache. Damn, that was pushing yourself more than you’d done before. Jackor damnit, and you thought you actually WANTED to have encounters like this at night. Some adventurer you are…

“Hmm? Oh the buzzing is gone.” Richard says, sitting up out of the wagon and stretching. “Was kind of comforting actually. What did I miss?”

“You can’t seriously have been asleep that whole time.”

“Well, I was until you started screaming about rides never ending.” He swats at an errant mosquito. “Damn little things are annoying, aren’t they?”

You grit your teeth and shake your head, dispelling the last traces of the headache. Weird how quickly it passed, though you still had that damn buzzing in your head. Fucking bugs.

“You alright?” Richard asks, staring at you.

“Just a little annoyed now.”

He studies your face before nodding and laying back down in the cart. “Don’t strain yourself, alright?”

“I know, I know.” You mumble, picking up a stick and drawing in the sand. “Don’t have to keep reminding me.”

Richard says something you can’t hear, before the sound of snoring fills the night air. You sigh and shake your head, taking watch a little more seriously the rest of the night.

>Your Madness level increased to 10%

>You Illusionist level increased to 2!

 

Morning comes painfully slowly, something that the Wizard never described in his story, even though you’d spent the evening combing over what he’d done to stave off the boredom. Read and craft magical implements apparently. Sometimes you wish you had such talents. Instead you just played with your sticks all evening, even making Fort Stickney. Get it, cause… sticks.

When it was daylight, you woke Richard and the two of you had a simple breakfast of biscuits and dried meat before setting off once again on the cart. You promptly fell asleep as Richard drove the cart on though, because you were tired and bored.

A few hours later, you awaken to Richard elbowing you in the side. You grumble and look up as he points to something ahead of you. Wiping away some drool, you study the scene before you, frowning. There was a wagon coming toward you, with a man and a woman sitting in the driver’s seat, some children in the back, surrounded by various objects, honestly there was a ton, like they’d raided their whole house or something.

You frown at your Master before yawning. “What’s the big deal? It’s just wagon.”

“No, it’s a family in a wagon.”

“So?”

He rolls his eyes. “What is rule number two of being an Illusionist?”

“The audience is ignorant?”

“That’s rule number one.”

“Oh uh…” You think about it for a second, “Stay observant?”

“Yes. Now then, why would a family be traveling south from Loveura with all their possessions?”

“Moving, I guess?”

“Yes, but why? Loveura is amazing farmlands, and work in the gardens isn’t hard to come by. Why would they travel south?”

You think about it for a moment. “I don’t know. Something scared them?” You blink, it coming to you. “You don’t think Fiora?…”

Richard nods and waves at the other wagon as they approach, and he stops Craig as the man does the same with his, admittedly, nicer looking horse. The two men nod to each other before Richard asks, “Ho, fair traveler! What brings you out to these parts?”

The man sighs and shakes his head, “Moving out to Kasin, heard it was nice these days.”

Richard nods, “Oh it’s quite the lovely town.” He points the way they came. “You folks coming from Loveura? How’s things there?”

The woman looks down and grips the baby in her arms as the man shakes his head. “You… might not want to go there right now.”

“Something wrong?”

The man frowns. “Nothing yet, just… strange things occurring. The mayor has been implementing some odd policies all of a sudden, advocating more people to help out in the gardens. Sure, it’s not a big deal, and the plant Monsters love the attention, but it’s weird, you know? Some people say they see strange things and… I don’t know.” The man shrugs.

“I’m just a simple farmer, I just want peace for my family is all.”

“I understand. Well, safe travels to you and yours, there’s been some Monsters on the road recently.”

“Aye, so we’ve heard. They don’t seem to care much for married men round these parts.” He chuckles, and his wife slaps his on the arm. He gives her a placating smile before tipping his hat and snapping his reins, spurring his horse forward.

You watch them go before Richard rubs at his chin. “What is she doing…?”

“Why would Fiora be making them spend more time in the Gardens?” You ask, scratching your head. “What would she gain from that?”

Richard shrugs, “I don’t know, but those are the questions to ask. Guess we’ll find out when we get there.”

“By the way, when is…?”

“At this pace? Two days after today.”

You slump back in your seat, sighing. “Great…”

 

The rest of the day was uneventful, and you make camp near a small river, one of many which connect to the Yangrove river which runs through Loveura. The soft sounds of water gently flowing by is relaxing, even through the supplemental lessons that your master puts you through during dinner.

Of course you know who the first Maestro was, he was the greatest Illusionist who ever lived, managing to even fool the 6th Monster Lady, into diverting her Horde through a pass where an ambush devastated her force. Supposedly even her Temple Guard didn’t notice the deception, and one of them was the current Monster Lady!

Of course, he went mad like all the others, and almost caused a civil war before being put down. Another grim reminder of your fate. Richard was really hamming up this recently, but you were on your first journey, and he was right to keep you from straining yourself.

“Hey, I’ll take first watch tonight.” You say to Richard as he finishes washing off your plates and getting water. He watches you curiously before shrugging.

“Don’t want to chance running into another Monster, hmm?”

“Well, I mean.”

“Good, you’re learning.” He stretches. “I’m tired anyway. Wake me up when the fire dies down.”

You nod to him and he enters the cart before falling asleep, leaving you alone again in the warm night. You wish you had a cool familiar friend. You… think that illusionist can have familiars, right? Well, you don’t even know how to go about it, let alone have a familiar anyway.

“Oh Bearsy, you’re my only friend.” You whisper to the tiny bear sculpture in your hands. His black eyes stare into your soul, as if trying to say something to you, the feeling more intense than it was before. The words, “You have to go back…” flash through your mind again and you shake your head. Weirdest dream you’d ever had.

You sigh and stand up, walking over to the river and staring at the dark waters as they slowly flow by. You gently rub Bearsy’s head before putting him into your pocket and squatting down. It all seemed so peaceful, you know? Like nothing bothered it, even if you throw a rock into the waters, the rest just flows on by, never caring. It’s cathartic in a way after your last day, when you didn’t truly understand danger or what it meant to travel.

You have a feeling that you were going to learn much more on this adventure, whether you wanted to or not.

You frown as the waters before you start to churn. Eh? What’s this all about? You lean over the water before something pops out! Causing you to fall backward as a spray of water washes over your legs. You blink, confused as a head appears in the dark waters.

“Woah! Sorry there!” It says, and you realize it’s the head of a woman with short, brown hair (you think), and small, folded ears on her head. The rest of her was hidden in the water, but it was obvious she was a Monster.

“Didn’t mean to startle… heeeeeey, you’re a human!” She says, smiling. “Oh hey, you want to come for a little swim?”

“You’re not going to rape me are you?” You say, scooting back some.

“Well of course I am, silly!” She says, lashing out with a brown furred paw, tiny little claws at the end digging into your leg. “Heh, you’d be OTTERLY wrong if you thought otherwise.”

Heh, Otterly, because she’s a River Otter. Hehe, you get it. Of course, your hilarity is cut short when she pulls backward forcefully, pulling you over the edge and into the dark waters of the river before you can so much as shout.

You feel cold, so very, very cold as the waters engulf you. Even though it was so warm outside, the waters seemed not to get the message, and you almost gasp at the sudden shock of it, though you do flail in instinctual reaction as thin arms pull you into a well muscled, yet soft torso.

You try to open your eyes to get a look under the water, but you feel yourself being propelled upward, and over, the violent shifts in your positioning causing you to be unable to fully grasp the situation. Your mind swims along with the current, the confusion leading to a mild sense of panic. Holy shit, was she going to drown you? Because it was getting kind of hard to breathe!

As soon as you think this, you hear a slighting whooshing sound as your head is thrust upward out of the water. You instinctually take a deep breath, blinking water out of your eyes and you thrash about, trying to get loose of your captor.

“Hey now! Woah big guy! You’re a feisty one, aren’t you?”

“AHHHHHHHHHH.” You scream. This needs to be said, because it must convey the true depths of your screaming.

“Calm down! You don’t want to attract frogs!” She says before pressing her lips to yours.

You scream into her mouth for a few seconds before you start to run out of air, and you calm down, just now feeling her lips on yours. They were wet, warm, and soft, more than you could have imagined, though the force of her kiss was mildly disconcerting, you feel your blood begin to run a little warm.

Guess you’re not a kissless virgin anymore, huh? Well, still a virgin, but if she has her way, not for long.

Of course, you could just let her have her way with you. It’s not like you’d lose anything if she did, and it would probably be easier to just give up instead of fighting. Sure, there might be complications, but at the moment, not drowning seemed like a good compromise. It’s fine, right? Just to let it take its course? RIchie probably wouldn’t give you much fuss about it either, right?

“What would the Grand Wizard do?” You think to yourself then. “Would he allow this to happen?”

No, of course he wouldn’t. Being raped by some random Ottergirl, while it would ruin you physically (probably) or magically, would ruin your spirit. What, would you just submit to any ol’ monster that comes on by? Become some kind of slut until one takes you for a husband?

No! You won’t allow it happen!

She pulls back, breathing a little heavily and allowing you to suck in some air. She chuckles, “Oh, woah, you taste wonderful! I wonder how the rest of you tastes…” She looks back and forth before smiling and you feel your body forcibly dragged through the water again, cutting off your train of thought. You yelp as she switches her grip and throws you onto a shallow mud bank, covering your front in the wet earth.

You flip about to see her leap forth from the water, her lithe body shining in the moonlight before it lands upon you, pinning you in place. You finally get a good look at her body, even in the dim-light of night.

Again, she was lithe, and about average height, though shorter than you, her moderately shapely body drenched in water. She wore an odd, two piece suit of clothing that seemed not to absorb the water, yet didn’t do much more than look like undergarments. “Swimsuits,” you’ve heard them called, though they didn’t seem to pick up much traction in the human world beyond esoteric high fashion.

Her arms and legs were coated in thick, bristling brown from the elbow and knee down, ending in webbed fingers with and toes with little black nails. Atop her head were the tiny ears set into short brown hair, and behind her was a medium-length, thick tail covered as well in that same fur. It waggles softly as she grins at you.

“You ready for this?” She asks, her head over yours, apple sized breasts heaving as she breathes in heavily.

“J…just let me do one thing.” You say, preparing yourself.

“Oh? O…oh!” She squeals as you shoot your arms forward into her chest, driving forward with all the speed and might in your person. Your hands reach her faster than a speeding Hawk-harpy and she gasps as you assault her with… belly rubs.

“Ah…aha…ahhhnnnn!” She moans before falling over onto her side, her arms and legs curling up into herself as she rolls onto her back, her face becoming flushed. She begins to honk and click softly as you continue your belly rubs, your slick hands roving across the smooth, toned skin of her abdomen like an oiled rag over metal.

“Ehhe heheheh,hahah!”Her eyes begin to roll back into her head as she begins to lose it. You were just, trying to distract her or something, but holy hells, Ottergirls seem to LOVE belly-rubs! She begins to rub her legs together and her breathing becomes more ragged as you continue and you start to get a vague sense that this could turn ugly the moment you stop rubbing her. You bite your lip and look about, trying to get your bearings. Shit, she’d managed to pull you down-river an unknown distance, and you can’t see your camp anywhere. Which meant, you’ll have to make a break for it, and you’re pretty certain you’d just committed the greatest act of foreplay this Monster had ever known.

You try to think of something, anything you’ve learned about Otters from your time in the Communion Matrix. Uh, let’s see, they’re great swimmers, very athletic, can be shy at times, and there’s something they can’t resist… Shit what was it?

You look down suddenly as she grabs your arm, her breath coming out as a ragged pant. “I…I need you in me, now!” She wheezes, water streaming from her face as her mud-slickened body still writhes in pleasure.

Wait… water!

You reach into your [Bag of Sand] but don’t pull anything out, instead looking her in the eye and withdrawing something. Her eyes go wide and she momentarily stops breath as she stares at what’s in your hand.

You smirk at her. “Can I interest you in a watermelon in this sexy-times?”

What she sees in your hand is a slice of watermelon, red and ripe, with a thick, firm rind. Truthfully, there’s nothing in your hand at all, but in her emotional state, she’s not thinking clearly, and thus the illusion is easy to influence her with. She extends one hand toward it before pulling back and licking her lips, looking down at your pants before back up to the watermelon.

“W…where did you… why do you?”

“I like watermelon.” You say with a completely straight face, a skill you had driven into you by Richie. “I always keep some on me.”

She begins breathing heavily again before biting her lip and then taking the melon, hurriedly chewing upon it. She begins to cry then, but keeps eating it, unable to stop herself.

Thank you useless information on the Communion matrix! This is your chance, and you take it, pushing yourself up and running away. Of course, you promptly slip in the mud and land on your face before getting up again and looking over your shoulder. She’s now on the rind, crying profusely as she munches into it.

“I hate this!” She shouts. “Why would you do this!”

Uh oh, the illusion was almost complete. Time to skedaddle. And skedaddle you do, quickly leaving her behind as you run, muddy and wet, into the tree line before you, heading back upriver toward your camp. You stumble a few times as you do, being that it’s pitch dark, but thankfully nothing accosts you as you make your way out, though you hear a few things in the trees that make you rather… uncomfortable.

“Tobias!” You hear in the distance. “Tobias where are you?!”

Richie was… awake? He sounded concerned, and you rush toward the sound of his voice over the grass. He appears from another copse of trees on the bank of the river. A smile comes upon your face as you realize you’re safe now. You start to slow your pace, breathing a little heavily.

“Run you fool!’ Richard shouts, sprinting toward you.

You cock your head, confused, and then look behind you to see the Ottergirl, bounding along on all fours over through the trees and into the grass. Your eyes go wide and you peel off, running as fast as you can toward your Master, hearing the frenzied sounds of the Otter as she gets ever closer.

Sweat dripping from your brow, mud flying everywhere, you run faster than you ever had before, running to your Master who shouts defiantly as the Ottergirl gets within range of you. You turn about in time to see your Master’s eyes flash green.

Panting heavily, you watch in stunned silence as the Ottergirl stops, thrusting all four feet down into the grassy earth, throwing up chunks of ground as her eyes lock upon your Richard’s. She just sits there, staring at him with widening eyes, and the two of them seem frozen in time to your before a look of utter horror appears upon the Otter’s face.

“N…no. That’s not… p…please.” She whimpers before cringing backward, crying in earnest this time. She balls up her fists and wails before dashing to the river and leaping in with a loud splash before disappearing off into the darkness.

Richard’s eyes return to normal and he staggers to a knee, putting a hand to his head. He begins to mutter to himself softly, chuckling every so often as he does. You run up to him, putting another hand on his shoulder and shaking him. “Snap out of it!” You cry, slapping him across the face.

He staggers to the side before coughing a few times and blinking toward you. He looks all around him and then back to you again, whispering, “T…Tobias?”

“Yeah! Damnit, I don’t know what you did, but you crazy bastard, it worked!”

Richard looks down and closes his eyes, taking a deep breath before standing on shaky feet. “It… I’ll tell you another time. Let’s… let’s just go back to camp.”

You frown, but nod your head. No sense pushing this issue. You help him walk back to camp, clearly whatever he did managing to take some kind of toll on his body and sanity. How much longer did he have? It seemed more likely that he’d never go insane, how could he? He was greatest living Illusionist, right?

The thought gave you pause the entire time you spent heading back to camp. You offer to take watch the rest of the evening, but Richard insists on staying awake. “I have a lot to process.” He says, staring into the fire. You don’t like it, but at the same time, what were you going to do?

You clean yourself off before hanging your clothes over the fire and reluctantly falling asleep. During the night, you wake up at one point to the soft sobbing of your Master as he stares off into the fire. The sight manages to keep you from sleeping as well, and morning was long in coming as you are left with your thoughts.

——————————————

The sun hang high overhead, showering you in warmth and light, though it seemed to be more of the former today. You wipe at your brow and look up at it before grumbling and looking away. You’d once stared at the sun too long, and you didn’t feel like repeating the experience. Of course looking at the sun would be a little less painful than your current situation.

Richard sat on a rock, staring off at the river without moving since you stopped for your break. You’d tried to entertain yourself, but seeing your master just… staring off into the distance sort of set you on edge, especially after last evening. Eventually, you can’t take it anymore and wander over to him, squatting down beside your Master.

“You alright?”

He closes his eyes before sighing out, “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You don’t… look alright.”

He smiles and shakes his head, “Trust me kid, I’ve been doing this for awhile. I’m fine.”

“Richie…” You say hesitantly, trying to gather your words. “I don’t… I don’t want you to hurt yourself for my sake. I could stand being raped by some fairly attractive Ottergirl, but if you went over the edge…”

You lick your lips, “I’m just concerned about you, alright?”

Richard looks up at you, studying your expression for a long while before a wan smile comes over his face. “Tobias… thank you, but it’s fine, I assure you.” He leans his head back and sighs again, “The thought of anything happening to you would be too much to bear, even something like a tryst with a Monster. I’m proud of you for resisting her by the way. What did you do to escape?”

“Belly rubs and illusionary watermelon.”

“Ah, watermelon, a classic.” He starts chuckling and you join in, though you don’t really feel the mirth in it, and you’re pretty certain he doesn’t either. The laughter dies down slowly, leaving an awkward silence filled only by the soft flow of the river.

“Richie, what did you do to that Otter?”

He looks down and sighs at the question. “I knew you’d continue to ask.”

“I mean, your eyes glowed yellow and then she ran like a Hellhound was after her.”

“As she would, though it wasn’t a Hellhound she saw…” He grits his jaw, face set in consternation. “I don’t know Tobias, it’s dangerous. I probably should never have done it myself.”

You think back to last evening again and shudder. Still, your curiosity made you press on. “Come on, you’re supposed to teach me things, right? You keep saying that someday I’ll have to go on my own so… teach me, please.”

He looks up at you before chuckling, “Oh, so it takes your Master going slightly insane for you to want to learn something, hmm?”

“Yes, and?”

He smirks at you before slapping his knees. “Oh, very well then.” He takes in a deep breath before holding up a finger. “You know the old saying, ‘The eyes are the windows to the soul?'”

“Yeah?”

“Well, it’s basically true, though in reality it’s more the eyes are windows to the mind.” He points to his eyes. “You see, our magic influences the minds of others based on what we know, thus being observant helps and is the most important of our rules.”

He breathes out, “However, sometimes we don’t know what we need to, and making a convincing illusion can be difficult. Thankfully, we have a way to uh… ‘cheat,’ so to speak.”

“Uh…huh.” You say, scratching your chin. “Go on…”

“You see, by concentrating your focus onto the eyes of someone whom you’ve made eye contact with, you can see into their mind.” He waves a hand, “Of course, this only works at extremely close range, and it’s not exactly mind reading, in fact, you can only see the strongest emotion.”

“Love?” You ask, cocking your head.

“No you little twat, it’s fear. By using this technique, known gently as [Eye of Fear], you can pull forth the other person’s greatest fear, make them see it, experience it. This is even worse if they’ve actually been through the event before.”

“That sounds… kind of bad-ass.” You say, thinking of the possibilities.

Richard waggles a finger. “Of course, there’s drawbacks.”

“No shit.” You say, sighing. “Madness?”

“It’s not kind to the user, no. Beyond being very taxing to your focus, it also… well, you know how a window goes both ways, right?”

“You can tint some windows…”

“Shut up.”

“Yes sir.”

He sighs, “Well, in addition to making them see and experience their fears, you see and experience them also.” He holds out his hand, and it starts shaking. “She was deathly terrified of frogs of all things! Froggirls, to be certain, but even though I know there’s no good reason to be afraid of the things, but look at me? I’m shaking thinking about them, her terror was that real.”

He chuckles again, “You see why I didn’t want to tell you about it? But you asked, so…”

“Thanks.” You whisper, looking down and reflecting upon what you’d just been told.

>You learn [Eye of Fear]

>A double edged sword. Fear cuts both ways.

An uneasy silence passes between the two of you again, though you once again break the quiet by asking slowly, “Why do you think Jackor hates us?”

“Tobias, you know he doesn’t hate us.”

“But why curse us to this life? Why does he leave us the slow fear that we’ll go mad, or see those around us do the same? Is it just one of his big jokes?”

Richard stares at the river, mulling over his words. “That story about the Grand Wizard… what does he say about how Wizards came to be?”

You cock your head. “Eh? I mean, he says they used to be the priests of Solos, the only practitioners of magic, and that sorcerers were a bleed over from the mana leaked into the world.”

“Aye, so far as we can tell, that’s true enough. Wizards had forgotten their path in isolation, but Illusionists never forgot. Do you wonder why all Gods have priests, even Nerg, yet Jackor does not?”

“I figured he doesn’t give a shit about being worshipped.”

“Oh no, he does. He is worshipped whenever dice are rolled or a prank is played, even if there is no one to minister the words.” Richard shrugs, “He does have priests though, and there’s two of them sitting right here.”

You frown deeply, “Wait, but I hate Jackor, and don’t most people have to, you know, do something to be a Priest? You know, like LIKING the God?”

“Your parents rolled the dice for you, Tobias. You got the short end of the stick.” He smiles, “Jackor doesn’t hate us, in fact, I’m certain he’s either indifferent to us being around, or he secretly is watching us all the time.” He pokes your chest, “You just gotta have faith.”

“Faith that he’ll drive me insane someday?”

“No, faith that you’ll do something great before he does.”

You shake your head before rising and patting Richard on the shoulder, “I’d call you crazy, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t be a joke.”

“You’d be partially right.” He says, ruefully.

You squeeze his shoulder before nodding back to the cart. “Let’s get going. Can’t have you going mad until we take care of your darling Fiora, after all.”

Richard shakes his head. “No, no we can’t.”

————-

The cart rolls down the road for an uneventful rest of the day, and you spend the time reading through your book again, looking for some inspiration. The way he’s detailed casting his elemental magic makes you pine for the ability to do so, and while you could illusion up these things, you’d have to be careful about it unless you intended to kill someone, which is always a huge strain on an illusionist. The body will refuse to just roll over and die by a mere illusion, so you have to make it very, very real to them.

Of course, there’s other cool things he did, like his copromancy. You also chuckle as you read the commentary by the Ascendant, who strong disapproved every time he did it. She even went so far as to call it “childish and irresponsible” in reference to the way he always blamed it Ghosts. It always made you smile when he did that. What a kooky-guy!

“What a kooky-guy he is, Bearsy!” You say to your little carved bear. He doesn’t say anything back, and you’ll probably know you’re in deep shit when he actually does, but for now, he’s just a fun little companion. Richard eyes you with a flat-eyed stare from the side, and you chuckle at him, waving the bear in his face.

“You sure you’re not the crazy one?”

“Bearsy says I’m sane.”

“That’s not reassuring.”

“Yeah well, perhaps you should…!”

Your words are cut off as you hear something in the brush nearby. It sounds like something big thundering toward you, and as soon as you think this, a loud roar is heard. You and Richard exchange looks in time to see the form of an above average height woman burst forth from the brush, her short white hair covered in leaves and twigs, toned and tan skin cut in multiple places.

Her arms are powerful, and like her legs, ended in powerful black paws with long, powerful claws. She has a short tail behind her and her and small black ears upon her head, as well as a fairly  attractive face. A… Badger girl? She doesn’t seem to notice you though, instead growling toward the brush as another form emerges.

A lithe, very feminine form slithers from the brush, her pale skin looking radiant, completely without any signs of blemishes, as well as that of her luscious purple hair. Her legs, however, are replaced by a long, serpentine body, which dances nimbly across the ground, red scales shining as if oiled. Her red eyes shine as she stares at the other girl, a long, sinuous tongue curling from her mouth. Lamia huh?

“Ehehe… this is the end of the line for you, Ginelle.” The Lamia hisses, coiling up on herself, wicked fangs shining in her mouth.

“I won’t just go down easy!” The Badger shouts back, hairs bristling.

You and Richard exchange looks. They’re completely ignoring you. Like, you meant nothing to them at all, you could just… leave. That was Craig’s vote anyway, his eyes looking nervously at the both Monstergirls.

“This isn’t good.” You mutter darkly, watching as the two Monsters prepare to fight once more. “Not good at all.”

“You’re right, they could kill each other.” Richard say, grimacing. “This could be a horrible and terrifying battle, where the winner is left standing only by the skin of her teeth.”

“Aye, their broken and abused form limping terribly  from here, wondering if victory was worth the cost?”

“Truly, war makes fools of us all.” Richard sighs, shaking his head.

“WELP!” You say, digging into the provisions in the back of the cart and pulling out a bag of mixed nuts. You sit on the back of the cart, leaning forward excitedly. “My money’s on the Badger girl.”

“Tobias!” Richard snaps, moving to sit next to you, a look of consternation on his face. “What is wrong with you? Can’t you see that the Lamia has the clear advantage here?”

You watch as the two circle each other slowly, eyes locked and focused fully onto their adversary. You take a handful of nuts from your bag and chew on them loudly, shouting, “WOOOOO!” as they bound at each other.

The Badger girl leaps into the air toward the Lamia, who slithers to the side, avoiding the blow and managing to crack her tail at the mammalian Monster, causing the Badger to howl before flipping about and charging again.

“Booo! You can do better than that Badgy! Oh oh! Look out for her tail again!”

You feel the nuts ripped from your hand as Richard takes the bag, popping a handful into his own mouth, crunching loudly. “Oi! That’s right Snek tits! You show that overgrown pile of fur who’s boss!”

The Lamia swung with her tail again, catching the Badger’s leg, but the other Monster was prepared this time, shifting her body mid-charge and slamming into the lamia’s side, causing the snake to hiss in pain.

“AWWW YEAH. DID YOU SEE THAT?!” You scream, standing up. “That’s right! You go girl!”

“Baaaah! She’ll recover!” Shouts Richard, pulling you down. “Don’t get your hopes up so soon!”

True to his word, the Lamia flipped about and snaked out his the Badger’s reach before her powerful arms could rip into her, and she made a circle around the badger, her tail snapping in and around her opponent, rapidly coiling about her.

“Noooooo!” You wail, putting your hands to your head. “Not the coil!”

“Oh yeah!” Richard shouts, tossing up nuts as he pumps a fist. “That’s checkmate right there!”

“You can do it Badger!” You shout, standing up again and cupping your hands to your mouth. “You can break free from this, believe in yourself! Believe in the power that runs through your veins! You can break her hold, I know you can!”

The Badger girl, despite being squeezed by the Lamia, finally seemed to notice you, her eyes going wide as you cheer for her. She looks at her opponent before gritting her teeth and roaring a mighty Badger roar.

The Lamia’s grin began to fade, replaced by concern as her tail began to bulge outward. Her face became red as she tries harder and harder to hang on, but with a cry of agony, her hold bursts open, and she’s thrown violently backward, the Badger freeing herself from the grip!

“WOOOOOO!” You shout again.”That’s right Badgy! You got this!”

“Bah!” grumbles Richard, chewing on a handful of nuts. “Damn cheering section.”

The Badger girl studies you for a moment before remembering her opponent, and diving at her, fists bared. The Lamia, still stunned, didn’t have time to fight back, and the Badger girl’s merciless beating soon turned her sublime face into pulp.

“…This is getting really brutal.” You say, feeling a little squeamish as the Badger beats the Lamia. “She might actually kill her.”

Richard hops down from the cart, waving at you. “Come on!”

You hop down and run toward the badger, tearing her off the motionless Lamia, though it takes all your effort to do so. She roars and tries to bat both of you aside, but with both her arms locked, she eventually slows down, staggering to a knee and breathing heavily.

“Woah there girl!” You say, trying to ease her gently down. “You did it, you won.”

“I…ha… who the Hells are you?”

“Just traveling enthusiasts of the martial arts.” You say cheerily.

“You’re just some assholes who wanted to watch Monsters beat each other up, aren’t you?”

“N….noooooooo.” You say, not even trying to hide it. “Anyway, you kind of kicked her ass really good there. She might be dead!” You look at the Lamia and her tail twitches slightly. “Nope, not dead.”

“Let me finish the job then.” The Badger girl says, trying to rise, but you and Richard hold her down.

“Easy there.” Richard says, shaking his head. “Not until you explain why you two were fighting.”

“What business is it of yours?” She growls, trying to shake you off. You use a subtle illusion to make yourself seem stronger than you are and she blinks, confused at your sudden burst of strength. “Eh?… Ah, never mind. Look, thanks for the moral support, but you need to let me finish her off.”

You stare into her eyes, which were rather pretty now that you got a good look at them. “No way. Wouldn’t be right.”

She grumbles some before sighing and slumping to the ground fully. “Look, I was just hungry alright, and the damn Lamias around here have all the best food so…”

“So you stole from them.”

“Yeah well, maybe if they weren’t so stingy!” She mutters darkly, looking at the ground.

“Couldn’t you like… go to Loveura and get some good food?”

She scoffs, “Like those high and mighty flower-heads would ever give anything to a Badger! They take one look at my kind and kick me out, afraid I’ll mess with their precious Beegirls and their rich… succulent… honey…” She starts drooling a little before shaking her head and wiping it off.

“Look, just let me go. I promise not to kill her, though she deserves it.”

“Ginelle, was it?” Richard says, shaking his head, “You’ve done a great disservice to this Lamia. I think when she wakes up, you need to apologize.”

“What?!” She shouts, struggling against you again, though failing again as she well, believes she’s failed. “I’m doing no such thing!”

“Well, if you don’t, we’ll just hold you down until she can bring the others back.”

Ginelle pales slightly before looking down and grumbling as the Lamia stirs, slowly picking herself up from the ground. “Ugh… my head and… gah, my beautiful tail!” She stares daggers at the Badger girl before noticing you and Richard. “What is this? Humans?”

“Yep, humans. Sorry about the commentary during your fight.”

“What commentary?”

“Nevermind. Look, we heard what Ginelle did, and she has something she’d like to say.”

Ginelle growls softly, “Go swallow and egg you…” You slap the back of her head and she blinks a few times, stunned before she looks at you and blushes. “Ugh…. look, I’m sorry for stealing from you.”

The Lamia quirks and eyebrow, then looks back and forth between the two of you. She sighs, shaking her head. “It can’t be helped, you barbaric Badgers will be who you are. I’ll let it slide on account of this handsome gentlemen, but if you dare come near our nest again, I will kill you for certain this time.”

“You can try…” Ginelle mumbles, and you smack her on the back of the head again.

“Bad Badger.”

She grumbles as the Lamia slithers away, rubbing at her face. She pauses and takes a long look at Richard before sliding out her serpentine tongue toward him, winking her bruised face, and leaving back into the brush.

You sigh and shake your head, letting the Badger girl go. You stretch your back as Richard does the same before you help the shaken looking Monster up. She shakes her head a few times before asking, “Why?”

“Cause the voices in my head told me to.” You say, shrugging. Richard shoots you a concerned look and you wave your hand at him. “I’m joking, Jackor please, don’t have a heart attack.”

He narrows his eyes at you and you chuckle. Such a worry-wart. You pat the Badger girl on the back, feeling her strong musculature before you nod your head in satisfaction. “Just going a good deed, you know? Now, you stay out of trouble young lady.”

Ginelle looks at you with an extremely confused expression before turning to Richard who shrugs, “I’ve known the guy for years and I still can’t figure him out.” He shakes his head, “Anyway, we need to get going.”

You nod your head and wave to the girl before mounting up again and rolling down the road as before. A niggling feeling tugs at the back of your mind, and you look behind you a few minutes down the road to see her still standing her, staring at one of her claws. What a weird Monster.

———————————

Nightfall comes sooner than you know and you can hardly sleep for the excitement that is reaching civilization tomorrow. Which is why Richard forces you onto first watch. Also he’s kind of dead tired, and you assure him that you have everything under control.

“You’re not going to go near the river, right?”

“No sir.”

“You’re not going to attract Mosquitoes, right?”

“No sir.” You can still hear buzzing though. Damn bugs seem to be very active at night, though you can’t see any….

“You’re going to have a quiet night on watch and let me sleep, right?”

“No sir.”

“Tobias….”

You hold up a placating hand. “I’m joking. Yeesh, just go to sleep already.” He gives you a strange look before settling down into his sleeping roll, the sound of his snoring quick in coming.

You sigh and lean back against a log you’d found nearby for a camp bench, staring off at the stars. It wasn’t exactly a magically special day, but it wasn’t terrible either. At least you didn’t have an encounter today, and you could hopefully rest easy tonight, reaching Loveura tomorrow. Once there, you could rest with a roof over your head as you discussed your… well, grisly business.

You hear a rustling nearby and you narrow your eyes. Great, just fucking great, of course you’d run into problems here. You sigh and pick up a stick, ready to illusion it into a sword or something at whatever fucking Monster was here to rape you this time. Maybe it was just a human bandit? That would be nice.

A large form emerged from the bushes and to your surprise, you recognized her. She stood awkwardly in the campfire light, her face slightly flushed as she rubbed at an arm. You didn’t get a good look before, but the tight-fighting clothing she wore  was ripped and torn in multiple places where she had been scratched up and it didn’t look like she’d done anything for them.

You pinch the bridge of your nose as she says in a soft voice, “Uhm. Hi there.”

You put a finger to your lips before pointing at the cart. “Shhhhh.”

The Badger girl blinks and looks over at the cart before nodding her head slowly. You roll your eyes and wave her over, patting the log upon which you sit. She pauses for a moment before timidly walking over and sitting down, keeping some distance between you and her. Which is fine, you guess.

You sigh and shake your head. “You aren’t here to rape me, are you?”

She blinks, taken aback. “What? No!”

“Shhhh!” You say, looking behind you again. Alright, he’s still asleep. You breath out slowly in relief. “Look, I just have to check, alright? It’s been a strange trip alright?”

“Things are a little dangerous for single humans, isn’t it?”

“Who says I’m single?” You say, a little defensively. She gives you a flat stare and you roll your eyes, “Fine, whatever. Why are you here anyway? Did…did you follow us all day?”

“No! Well, not all day anyway.” She fidgets for a moment before sighing. “Look, I just… I don’t know, I didn’t really have anywhere else to go and… I also wanted to apologize.”

“Eh? Apologize?” You say, swatting around your head. Damn mosquitoes man, fucking everywhere.

She watches you oddly before shaking her head, “Yes, I was rude today. You probably ended up saving me a lot of trouble, pulling me off her.” She smirks, “Not sure how you kept me down though, you don’t look all that strong.”

“I work out.” You say flatly, noticing the wounds on her person again as the campfire illuminated her. Some of them looked pretty bad actually, but she didn’t seem to pay any attention to it at all. She didn’t seem… dangerous, not to you anyway, so you guess it’s probably fine to help her out.

“Hey, you really should get something on those wounds you know.”

“Hmm? These scratches? They’ll be fine.” She says, shrugging. “I’ve had worse.”

“Sure you have.” You say, standing slowly and walking to the cart, being extra quiet as you rustle about the wagon, looking for some salve you’re sure was… ah, there it is. You take the jar of herbal salve and quietly walk back to the campfire, sitting closer to the Badger. She eyes you oddly as you take a glob of the salve onto your fingers.

“Come on then.” You say, waving with your other hand. “Let me see your arm.”

She hesitates before slowly raising her arm to you, and you take it with your free hand before rubbing some salve into the wound. She winces and lets loose a small growl, which you glare at her for, and she quiets down soon enough as you work the stuff into her wounds. Her skin was surprisingly soft, despite the fact that she could withstand such pressure, and as you got farther up her arm, you began to realize just how close you were to her. You look up at her, eyes meeting for a moment and she blushes, looking away.

You breathe out deeply, realizing what you’d gotten yourself into. Hell, why did you always have to be such a nice guy, eh? Okay well, usually you were a fucking asshole, but recently, you’ve been nice, which is sort of backfiring on you as these Monsters you meet keep getting these leeeewwwdddd thoughts in their heads. You groan internally as you work on the other arm, and she lets out a small little gasp as you get to a particularly bad spot.

“This one isn’t that recent, is it?” You ask, inspecting the wound, using the talk as pre-text to get you mind off other things. “You really get in trouble a lot, don’t you?”

“Well, not really, it’s just… We Badgers sort of… don’t seem to notice when things are trying to hurt us.” She taps at her nose, “Except here anyway.” Her eyes go wide, “D…don’t let anyone hear that I told you that!”

“Shhhh!” You look behind you again. Fucker was still snoring, thank the Gods. “I won’t, I won’t. Still, you should really take better care of yourself.”

“You sound just like my dad.”

“Because that’s not a creepy thing to say as a guy’s treating your wounds.” You mutter, finishing up with that arm. She blushes again, which is such a funny look on such a powerfully built woman. Crimeny. You notice that her shoulders have some wounds too, showing through her garb which was torn there. You sigh and signal for her to turn around, which she does hesitantly.

“Sorry about that.” She mutters as you work some salve into your hands. Her back was a mess of little wounds here and there and you get to work, rubbing the salve into it, to which her spine stiffens. “Ah…ah!” She gasps, looking over her shoulder at you.

“Something wrong?” You say, working your way up. She shakes her head furiously.

“N…no! I… I just wonder why you’re being so nice to me is all. Humans usually aren’t, especially to us Badgers… well, except my Dad anyway, but he’s…” She goes quiet.

“Sorry about your loss.” You say, shaking your head. “I haven’t seen my parents in years, for all I know, they’re dead as well.” You begin to work salve into her shoulders and some of her tension slackens as she lets out a shuddering moan. Greeaaaaat. Why not just fucking pull it out already you idiot?

“Well, first off, you haven’t tried to rape me, which is endearing.” You pause, raising any eyebrow. “You are still keeping to that, right?”

“Y…yes?”

“Okay. Secondly, you seem like a nice enough girl who’s on some hard times. Besides, it’s a little lonely out here with just me and Bearsy.”

“Bearsy?”

“Little bear carving that… actually, nevermind.”

She chuckles, “Alright then. What are you doing out here anyway?”

“Traveling to Loveura to uh…” You pause as you finish rubbing the salve into her shoulders. “For business.”

She turns about and studies your face for a long while before nodding her head, her face close to yours. You feel some panic at being so close, and you feel your own cheeks heat up as her flushes face looks into your eyes. You quickly look down, getting a good view of her breasts, which of course, flusters you more, and you hold the jar up to her.

“H…hey, you have some more wounds!”

She blinks, “Can’t you rub it in?”

You cough and shake your head, pointing at her chest. She blinks a few times before looking down and noticing what you’re pointing at. “Oh… oh, of course.” She says, taking the jar hesitantly before dipping a claw into the salve and rubbing it over her breasts, the thick, gelatinous fluid coating her. Oh Jackor fucking damnit.

You throw your hands up in the air before standing up and walking back over to the cart to grab some food. You turn around to see her tracing her claw over her breast, giggling of all things as she does so, working in the salve. Fucking hell, you could see how the damn Monsters managed to survive so well even after the peace pact was made. You sigh and walk over, offering her some dried meat and some hard tack.

She blinks at the food, then sets down the jar of salve, before taking it from you. She sniffs at it a few times before smiling and devouring it quickly, leaving nothing but crumbs which she licked off her paws. “That was great!” She says, her face beaming, small tail wagging behind her. “Any more?”

“Ah ha… no, I’m afraid not. Can’t have too much be missing before morning, you understand?”

Her tail stops and she looks down, nodding her head. “Right, right… because you have to go to Loveura.”

“Yeah…” You say, scratching at your cheek. “Why can’t you go there again?”

“The Beegirls, they don’t take kindly to our sort, since we uhm…” She rolls her claw, “Are kind of addicted to honey.”

“Oh.” You say, swatting away another mosquito.

“Why do you keep doing that?”

“Doing what?” You ask, waving away again.

“Waving at the air like that.”

“Mosquitoes, damn things keep buzzing in my ears.”

“There’s no… mosquitoes out right now.” She says, looking confused.

You pause, eyes going wide before you look down at the ground. “Oh… shit.”

“Are… are you alright?” She asks, scooting close to you and putting a hand on your shoulder.

You look up at her, smelling the mix of herbal salve and sweat coming off her before you look away, shaking your head. “Yeah, I’m fine, just had a little moment there.” You move to wave your hand dismissively and then stop before once more shaking your head. “What are you going to after you leave?”

She looks aside and shrugs, “Do what I always do, I guess. Survive out here, probably end up getting in trouble with those Lamia again. It’s life.”

“That’s a really shitty life.” You say, frowning. She just shrugs again.

“What can you do?”

“Go somewhere else?” You suggest. She thinks for a moment before chuckling.

“I’d never make it anywhere else, I don’t have the food or the will. What’s going to be different there that I don’t have here?”

“Well, you don’t know until you try, right?”

She looks into your eyes for a long while before blushing again. “I guess you’re right.”

You scratch at your chin again before sighing. “Look… Ginelle, was it?”

“Yes?”

“How about… I don’t know, how about you travel with us for a bit. I mean, we’re just going to be in Loveura for a few days, we’ll do our business, and then we’ll head back home to Kasin. I’m sure someone would love to have a strong Badger like you about, and there’s very few Beegirls around, alright?”

She blinks her eyes a few times, incredulous. “Y…you’re serious.”

“I fucking guess.” You say, shrugging. She stares at you a long while before pulling you into a tight hug, plastering your body against her soft chest. Of course, you barely have time to register this before you feel your back start to shatter and you slap at her, trying to speak, but all the air is forced out of your lungs.

She drops you, blushing again as you gasp for air. “S..sorry!” She says, embarrassed. “I guess I don’t know my own strength, heh.”

“I’ll fucking say… gah.” You wheeze, getting everything back in order. You bend over and she gently pats your back, which actually helps some.

“Hey… what’s your name anyway?” She asks, and you look up at her, opening your mouth to say…

“Tobias Anton Shady.”

You and Ginelle whip around to see Richard sitting up on the cart, a rueful smile on his face. “What do we have here?”

“Oh. Hey Richie.”

“It’s Richard you punk.”

“Right, right.”

Your Master stretched his arms wide before yawning and resting his chin on his arm, looking between both of you. He settles back upon you before holding up a finger.

“Have you been near the river?”

“No sir.”

He holds up a second finger. “Have you attracted mosquitoes?”

“Uhhhhh. No? Yes, I mean no. No is the answer.”

He holds up a third finger. “Have you been quiet and allowed me sleep?”

“Y…yes?” He narrows his eyes at you and you gulp. “I mean, no. No I haven’t.”

He sighs and rubs at his forehead before waving at Ginelle. “My dear, a pleasure to see you again. I apologize for any trouble my stupid apprentice has caused you.”

“Oh! No, he hasn’t been any… trouble.” She looks down, intimidated, despite the fact that she was a damn Badger, probably because you were sweating bullets. “He actually helped me out some, uh… sir?”

Richard studies her before nodding his head, “Gave you some medicine did he?” She nods in response and he chuckles, “Good, some of those wounds were pretty nasty, though I know your kind rarely considers them of much concern.”

Well this was going better than expected. Of course, as soon as you think this, Richard turns his gaze back to you. “Well, glad to see she’s doing so well. So, what were you two talking about?”

“Talking about she uh… followed me home?”

Ginelle raised an eyebrow. “Am I some kind of Kobold or something?”

You begin to sweat bullets as they both stare at you, though they both seemed more amused than angry. You gulp, thinking of something better to say. “Look… she just came by to thank us for earlier, and, I dunno, I might have mentioned us possibly letting her travel with us for abit or something.”

You shrug, “You know, until we get back to Kasin, and she can find something better there.”

Ginelle nods her head, but Richard looks incredibly displeased. “Tobias… you shouldn’t have said something like that.”

Ginelle stops nodding her head and looks at Richard, a look of hurt and worry on her features. You bristle at his tone and match his eyes, doing your damndest not to flinch, though it was a little difficult, of course as his stare was positively… well, cold.

“That’s kind of rude to say, don’t you think.”

“Yes, it is rude, but true. What did you tell her about what we’re doing in Loveura?”

“Business.” You say flatly.

“Business.” He repeats before narrowing his eyes. “You know very well that this is business she has no, ‘business’ being part of?”

“Look! We’ll just let her stay out at the inn or something while we take care of things, alright? We’ll just do our job and leave!”

“You talk like it’s going to be that easy! You don’t think about the consequences, if one of us should get hurt!”

“Of course I think about such things! Why would you suggest I don’t?” You say, standing and gripping your hands into fists. “You know damn well I understand the risks!”

Richard moves to stand up on the cart, his expression positively furious, when Ginelle raises a paw into the air and coughs, the gesture rather loud because of her size, and she speaks up, getting the attention of both men. “I… I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it sounds dangerous.” She takes in a deep breath before speaking again, a look of determination in her eyes, “I don’t really know either of you very well but… well you’ve been so nice to me, that I want to do whatever I can to help out. If that means something dangerous well…” She shrugs, her torn clothing obvious in the firelight.

“It’s not like I’m a stranger to such things.”

You and Richard both stare at the Monster. Her previous timidity was replaced by a fierce determination that shone nearly as brightly as the fire illuminating her. Both of you turn and look to each other, feeling somewhat abashed by your previous attitudes. You both turn away, rubbing at your foreheads while sighting.

Ginelle exhales herself, chuckling some. “You two are very alike, you know? Sort of like Father and Son.”

You chuckle, but Richard just stares at her, and your mirth disappears as you notice him do so. Did… did she say something wrong? Richard shakes his head soon after though. “I appreciate the offer, but I still think it’s a bad idea.”

“Aww, come on Richie, you know there’s things our illusions can’t help us with. Having some muscle around might be nice.”

He looks up at you, the back to the Badger girl who cocks her head, confused. “Illusions?” She asks, claw rubbing at her noggin.

“Damnit Tobias, you know that you’re not supposed to tell people about our magic!”

“Well, if she’s going to stay with us, then I guess she should know we’re damn Illusionists!”

Ginelle’s mouth hangs open as she looks between you and Richard. “Y…you’re sorcerers?”

Richard groans, “Yes, dear, we’re sorcerers.”

“That is… so cool!” She says, beaming. “I’ve never heard of ‘Illusionists’ before. What can you do?”

You shrug, feeling a little smug. “Anything really. Well no, not anything, but we can make people think they see anything.”

She blinks a moment before frowning. “Hey… you mean like making someone think you’re stronger than you really are?”

“Eh heh… uhm.”

“Bastard.” She growls, though she still has a smile on her face. She slaps her legs and laughs heartily. “Traveling with SORCERERS. Wow, what will Mom think when I tell her?”

Richard frowns, “Mom? You live with your Mother?”

Ginelle waves a massive paw. “No, no, but I visit every now and then.” She puffs out her chest. “Of course, if I’m doing my best protecting a pair of SORCERERS, I might not have the time to do so, haha!”

“Hey now, we didn’t decide anything…” Richard tried to say, but you cut him off.

“Come on Richie, just let her come along. Who knows, she might even be useful until we finish up her.”

Richard’s eye twitches and he sighs, waving you over. You walk up to the wagon lean in close enough for him to whisper, “Boy, you better not be thinking with your dick here.”

“I’m not, I assure you. I mean, she is kind of cute and has a pretty nice body but…” You shake your head. “Look, it’s fine, alright?”

Richard takes in a deep breath and sighs. “I just… don’t want you to get hurt, alright? Things are about to get serious, and I need you to be thinking about your duty, not some Monster, alright?”

You nod your head slowly and Richard taps your chin before stretching. “Alright you damn kids, now keep it down. I need my beauty rest.”

“You’re going to need a lot more than just a little sleep for that.” You quip up.

“Shut your damn mouth.” Richard growls, flopping back into the cart amidst you and Ginelle’s laughter.

 

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2 thoughts on “Illusionistquest Chapter 1: Open Minded”

    1. The story is finished, I’m just uploading like, a “chapter” a day. The story ended up being slightly shorter than Wizardquest, but I hope it’s still enjoyable to those who weren’t part of the story.

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